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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

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mitted in history in the name of "the people", the modern reader can
well appreciate.

f Wang Anshih was a curious man, extraordinary in mind and char-
acter. He was an industrious student, a good scholar except in his
abominable philology, and certainly a major poet. Unfortunately, he
combined a Messianic sense of mission with a deplorable lack of tact
and inability to get along with anyone but himself. He was at the
same time unquestionably an unpractical idealist. If by idealist we
mean a man who was negligent of his food and appearance, Wang
Anshih was certainly one. He achieved a certain notoriety by his dirty
dress and his unshaved and unkempt appearance. Su Shim char-
acterised him in a rhetorical flourish as "dressed in a barbarian's robe
and eating the food of pigs and dogs", and said that "he discussed
p history and poetry with a convict's unshaven head and unwashed face."
Whether Wang Anshih loved that distinction or not we do not know,
but it is easy to believe that a man so absorbed in his ideas was
naturally negligent of his external looks. The story is told that he never
changed his gown. One day some of his friends went with him to a
bath-house at a temple. The friends stealthily left a clean robe while
he was in the bath and wanted to test whether he would find out his
dress had been changed. Wang Anshih came out of his bath and put
on the new robe, totally unaware of what his friends had done. Any-
way, he had put on a robe.

Another day, his friends reported to Wang Anshih's fat wife that
her husband loved shredded venison.

"I don't believe it," said his-wife, greatly surprised. "He never pays
any attention to his food. How could he suddenly love shredded
venison? What makes you think so?"

"We know because at the dinner he did not take food from the other
dishes, but finished all the shredded venison."

"But where did you put that dish?"

"Right in front of him," was the reply.

The wife understood, and said to his friends: "I tell you what. You
have some other kind of food put in front of him tomorrow and see
what happens."

The friends, therefore, changed the position of the dishes the next
day and put the shredded venison away from hirn and watched him
eat. Wang Anshih began to take food from the dish next to him and
did not know that the ,deer meat was upon the table.

The story is also recorded how Wang Anshih studied all night when
he was serving on a magistrate's staff at Yangchow. The chief magis-
trate then was Han Chi, who later became premier. Wang would
read all night and doze off in the chair towards dawn. On waking
up he would find that he was late and then rush to the office without